Digital Nomad travel gear update for 2024

On merino clothing, rain gear, battery chargers, packing light and using your phone overseas

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Editor’s Note: This series on traveling light and right has been updated for 2024. Our travel editor, Rob Kay, is preparting to embark on an assignment to Fiji, Australia and East Timor. In this column he’ll offer advice on what to bring in the way of clothing (such as the Outdoor Vitals merino t-shirt featured above) and electronic gear.

Merino Fever

Bringing the “right clothing” is crucial for a digital nomad. However, it’s not just a matter of what to wear. How much you bring is also an important and practical matter.

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A digital nomad’s guiding principle should be: travel light.

That’s where clothing made from merino wool fits in. While wearing the same underwear several days in a row may not serve you well, the same does not apply to merino wool socks or T-shirts. Thus you don’t need to have to bring as much clothing as you thought was necessary.

Magically, merino wool products absorb your sweat and perspiration without radiating unpleasant odors. This amazing material regulates heat, is durable and can be worn multiple times before needing washing.

Americans obsessed by changing their clothing daily can relax a bit with merino wool products in their roll-on.

Merino socks from Darn Tough Vermont should be in your pack
Merino socks from Darn Tough Vermont are a no brainer. Wear them a couple of days in a row and when it’s time to wash, they dry more quickly that other fabrics.

But wait, there’s more.

After washing, merino wool dries quickly. The nomad can wash his or her socks in the evening and rest assured they will be dry the next morning. This was the case with my socks (about $18 a pair) from Darn Tough Vermont, which are guaranteed for life. (You can see their superb ratings on Amazon).

Of course, the same principle applies to merino T-shirts. They dry overnight and don’t have to be washed as frequently as cotton or other material. And as alluded to above, wearing them several days in a row won’t result in your emitting an offensive odor.  (Note also overseas, I found people don’t seem to care if you wear the same shirt or pants two days in a row!)

This form fitting “Ultra Light Merino Wool Tee” from Outdoor Vitals is my favorite merino offering. It’s a new new Poly Blend Fabric: 115 GSM Merino Wool blend – 63% merino (18 micron), 29% polyester, 8% nylon, knit. It’s light and you can wear it in both tropical and moderate climates. It’s classy enough to wear on any occasion.

I also picked up a new version of the “Tern Ultralight” merino wool Tee from a company called Outdoor Vitals, which offers a variety of serious outdoor gear. (More on that below). I liked their T-shirt because it’s more form fitting on my torso than the other products. In other words it flatters me.

The material is a bit thinner than the Aviator so it’s ideal in warmer weather too. I wouldn’t say it’s fragile but as the manufacturer says, it’s not meant for abrasion. What I like: excellent stretch, moisture wicking (dries quickly), bacteria/odor resistant, holds shape (even when wet) and UPF Rating 36+. This is really important when you’re near the equator. You can get it in any number of colors. Price is $60.

A merino t-shirt for a digital nomad is pro forma
If you want to blend in, basic black t-shirts, like this merino Travel Tee from Aviator, are standard issue in southern Europe.

Merino wool T-shirts from Aviator (the same folks that make the travel pants) worked very well on my European excursion. They were dressy enough to wear at lunch with the town Sindaco (mayor in Italian) and fine for everyday activities as well.

The wool was not overly warm to wear even on hot days. And yes, it got hot in Spain and Italy over the summer. The Aviator T-shirt also came in handy in the Pyrenees, which can get chilly, even in the summer. (Figure on paying around $75 for an Aviator “Travel-T”).

A Digital Nomad needs more than Trendy Rain Gear

Rain coat from outdoor vitals should be in your digital nomad pack
I used the Tushar raincoat more like a jacket when it got a chilly–whether in the Pyrenees, on the airplane or in a tropical downpour. (No, that’s not me).

What happens when it rains? You can buy up a cheap umbrella on the road or better yet, take along a lightweight rain jacket before you leave town. I picked a dandy one from Outdoor Vitals, which manufactures serious trekking/mountaineering gear. They make a super lightweight “Tushar” nylon rain jacket which is sturdy and stylish. I found it to be an item I used nearly every day as a light jacket that I stashed in my day pack. It comes in handy if there’s tropical downpour!

The Tushar is much more than a rain jacket.

Rain coat from outdoor vitals has a very handy zipper and should be in your pack
The pocket on the Tushar was used daily to stash my reading glasses. (Rob Kay photo)

It’s EDC wear that you could comfortably wear at an outdoor café, in an airplane (where it can get cold) or anywhere. A lot of thought has gone into the design. It has stretchy cuffs that cover your wrist but don’t cling and will leave your hands free to do whatever. It has a hood, of course, that will keep you dry and a mesh pocket on the left lapel that comes in very handy for reading glasses, keys, etc.

The only downside is that at ($229.97) it’s expensive. Then again, you get what you pay for. Wear it on the plane or on your next hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Chargers

Your chargers are akin to a digital nomad’s life force.

When I got to my hotel or B&B my first act was to scout out an outlet near the bed to plug in my itty-bitty Anker 511 (Nano 3, 30W) charger dedicated for my Google Pixel 6 phone. The size of a big sugar cube, it doesn’t take up much space by the bed or in your tech pouch. Connected to Anker’s nifty (six foot long) USB C to C cable Lightning cable (which comes with the device) there’s plenty of room to place the phone in a convenient spot. Priced at $22.99, it’s not going to break the bank.

  Anker 511 (Nano 3, 30W) charger is in my digital nomad tech pouch
This itty-bitty charger comes in very handy in combination with the C to C cable that comes with it. (Rob Kay photo)

For charging bigger items I used Anker’s 737 Charger (GaNPrime 120W). With 2 USB-C ports and one USB-A port, you can charge your phone, tablet, and notebook all at once from a single charger. It’s also very fast. Using a C to C cable (which comes included) you get high-speed charging to a wide range of devices. Price is $75.

 Anker 737 charger is also part of my digital nomad charger collection
The 737 charger can handle up to three items at once. I would take one along. (Rob Kay photo)

Rounding off my charging tools portfolio was the Anker 737 Power Bank (PowerCore 24K). Weighing in at 1.6 lbs. and priced at $127, the Anker 737 Power Bank was well worth lugging around. I liken it to an insurance policy. It packs a punch and boy does it come in handy. It’s powerful enough to charge your laptop in one fell swoop and your cell phone 5x over. It also has a digital display which shows the output and input power and estimated time to fully recharge.

The 737 Power Bank from Anker will keep you ready for action
The 737 Power Bank is a monster to lug around but it saved my bacon on a couple of occasions. (Rob Kay photo)

I used it on the plane coming home to Hawaii when I had to finish an article and realized I hadn’t charged up my laptop. It also was essential when EasyJet (I’d avoid them if you’re in Europe) cancelled my flight and left me high and dry at Malpensa Airport (outside of Milano) with no place to stay and of course, no place to charge my cellphone.

Thank goodness I had this with me. You can get lighter power banks of course, but are they going to be able to charge your laptop? Think about it.

The 737 Power Bank from Anker is in digital nomad action on an airplane
The Powercore charger (foreground) kept me in business on the airplane. (Rob Kay photo)

So where do you stash all that digital nomad tech gear?

Peak Design (more on them in a future post) has a cool little item called the Tech Pouch ($59) which is designed specifically to store and organize your cables, charging devices, adapters, plugs, dongles, etc. It happens to be Amazon’s choice and it’s also mine. It’s durable and sturdy, the same nylon type material that Peak Design uses for their backpacks. Not only did it stow all my gear, but it helped keep me organized, which not a quality I always have.

The Tech Pouch from Peak Design keeps this digital nomad organized
The Tech Pouch from Peak Design is a great way to stay organized. It’s another item I wouldn’t leave home without.

Telephony

Obviously, your phone is of existential importance to your digitally nomadic lifestyle.

I brought an extra phone with me as a backup. I figured I could add a local SIM card (if needed) but it was not necessary. If you do plan to make a lot of local calls, you’ll want a dedicated local phone. Otherwise, you’ll be just fine with a decent international phone plan.

The International program I have (with T-Mobile) is the “Magenta 55+” which provides unlimited data and texting. If you need to call locally or back to the US, it’s 25 cents per minute on their network. I found I usually didn’t make local or internationals with T-Mobile so that was inconsequential.

The real workhorse was WhatsApp which I used quite a bit for messaging and phone calls–both locally and internationally. It is of course, free of charge.

(Note that Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere so you can avail yourself of that when needed).

WhatsApp is the killer app when it comes to free long distance calls and messaging. Everyone in Europe it seems has it on their phone.

The Magenta 55+ program worked out well but has some limitations.

The data speed with the T-Mobile network was fine for voice, texting and Google Maps but not for apps the require more bandwidth. For example, if you need to get into Dropbox, play a video or use any app that requires more data such as a hotspot for your laptop, you’ll need to upgrade to a program that offers more data. (In my case it was a T-Mobile international pass). It offers:

  • International 1 Day Pass: 512MB of high-speed data and unlimited calling, to be used up to 24 hours, for $5/day.
  • 5GB International Pass: 5GB of high-speed data and unlimited calling, to be used up to 10 days, for $35.
  • 15GB International Pass: 15GB of high-speed data and unlimited calling, to be used up to 30 days, for $50.

That said, for vacationers it will be fine.

Stay tuned for more travel gear for the Digital Nomad in Part 3.

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